The 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., introduced its first TechEd High School Makerspace specifically geared for students during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Edwards, Jan. 29, 2020.
“Makerspace is a modern workshop that uses technology to teach students or visitors valuable skills that allow them to build fun, interesting and gratifying projects,” said James M. Wang, program designer and Air Force ROTC student at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. “It’s very similar to a traditional workshop, like a wood or metal shop, but instead of having things like chop saws, band saws or drill presses, we have things like top-of-the-line 3-D hobby printers, laser cutters, 3-D design software, electrical engineering software and really powerful tools that students can take advantage of to build whatever they want.”
The ceremony was held at Bldg. 7210, which is the location of Makerspace, and Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, 412th Test Wing commander, provided the remarks that launched Makerspace into operation.
In May 2019, Wang presented the idea of creating the first Makerspace for high school students at Edwards AFB. The Test Wing approved the idea and funded it through the innovation initiative with the goal of improving education on base and providing a creative outlet for students to explore.
Since May, Wang has been developing a curriculum using education research from Stanford University. TechEd. has been the culmination of eight months of work and collaboration between departments and organizations at Edwards.
“When James briefed this idea to me several months ago, I slapped the table before he even said a second sentence,” said Teichert. “He is that compelling of a visionary for improving the lives of our family members here at Edwards.”
Makerspace is available to all students with access to the base, including students of Desert Jr.-Sr. High School, on Edwards, which also hosts kids from the surrounding communities.
At this modern day workshop, eligible patrons will have access to after-school classes for high-school students; collaboration and space sharing with existing Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics at Edwards; and community open hours.
“Instead of making things like Pinewood Derby cars, for instance,” said Wang, “students will be making things like 3-D printed prosthetics, robot arms, electric vehicles, drones, custom clothing and pretty much anything you can name.”
Makerspace workshops aren’t new to Edwards and this installation currently has a few that are available to eligible patrons, but what makes the TechEd Makerspace unique is that it’s geared toward high school students and offers a three-year curriculum that’s deigned to develop the students.
The TechEd curriculum will not just teach high school students technical skill, the students will be introduced to leadership skills and the ability to work in teams and projects.
“We’re working on a three-year, after-school curriculum right now in that first year students learn technical skills to allow them to master how to use the laser cutter, 3-D printers, 3-D design software, electrical engineering software and just become technically comfortable in the space,” said Wang.
The second year will introduce the students to research skills and applying these technical skills to solving a real-world problem, while partnering with an organization or a person in the community who has a problem that can be solved with a technical solution by applying their developed skills.
“Whether it’s a library that wants a smart watering system for their garden, or somebody with a movement disability that wants an assistive technology,” added Wang, “students will be able to work with community partner and design a technology-based solution for their problem.
Third-year students conceptually will take everything they’ve learned from the first two years and become mentors in the Makerspace and become responsible for teaching younger students.
In addition to the curriculum, Makerspace will have open hours on Fridays and Saturdays with volunteers that can train visitors on how to use the equipment.